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Winter Storm Recap & Preview

Recap of Wednesday

The last winter storm that moved through the city on Wednesday (11/27) underwhelmed in terms of forecasted snowfall. In the end, I measured 4.1″. If I hadn’t cleared the snow boards immediately after the rain transitioned to snow (at 5:30 AM) to avoid melting and measured several times before the snow could settle, the result would have been a much lower total. Other reports from around town and nearby lakeshore communities were closer to 2-3″. The official city COOP station only recorded 1.0″.

There was plenty of precipitation embedded in that snow soup we received. This station’s final total was 1.36″ spread over 11/26-27. The COOP station reported 0.97″. NOAA “SWE analysis” (snow water equivalent) showed the city, in general, receiving 1.25″ – 1.5″ of precip. Up in Negaunee Township at the National Weather Service office, they received 3″ of precip & just over 16″ of snow! What a difference elevation makes!

Just for comparison, the normal snow-to-liquid ratio for Marquette is about 16:1. That’s a measure of snow density, with higher numbers being lighter and drier. Our final ratio was 6:1, with the earliest stuff being less than 3:1. That’s about as wet and heavy as snow can get.

Wind impacts were certainly felt with a widespread power outage on the east side that lasted for several hours Wednesday afternoon. Our property is just south of downtown. We were fortunate to escape the outages.

Preview of Sat/Sun

Another winter storm appears to be bearing down on Marquette (see update below). It looks like snow will start Saturday midday evening (see updates below) and last through Sunday afternoon. There are definite similarities to the last storm. It, too, originates off the Pacific, features NE winds, and ample moisture.

As far as snow totals, having examined the model data (11/29 12z NAMnest/12z GFS/00z ECMWF) and drawing from experience (some very recent!), I’d somewhat conservatively guesstimate 6-9″ (see update below) by Sunday evening. The reason I think this storm may deliver a higher total is because the middle and lower atmosphere should be cooler than the last storm. I emphasize *should*. If that doesn’t happen, then we may get 3-5″ again. There’s also the possibility that the storm track could shift and greatly lessen snow amounts.

The previous winter storm forecast went sideways because actual surface and lower atmosphere temps were too close to freezing, or slightly above freezing. Snow couldn’t maintain solidity. Precipitation quickly became slush at lower elevations and further compacted in the wind. Last time around models indicated that temps would be closer to freezing so there was more of a possibility of what we actually received than this weekend’s event, assuming it stays on track.

The good news about the upcoming storm is the latest model runs no longer show freezing rain. Also winds should be at least 10 mph slower.

I’ll keep you posted if there are any significant developments. Keep in mind the forecast you see on the site is from the National Weather Service. This allows us to post the latest info that’s updated around the clock with current alerts. Otherwise, I would have to work 24/7/365.  Not gonna happen! 🙂

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[UPDATE 11/29/19 10:45 PM] As previously speculated, some new data (18z European ensemble, 12z Canadian GEM, 00z American WRF-ARW, 00z GFS) shows the track of the storm heading further south and drying out. If accurate, that would leaves us with about 3-6″ of snowfall (~ 0.5″ SWE).

[UPDATE 11/29/19 5:00 PM] Seeing also the possibility that dry air in the lower atmosphere may eat some of the moisture and delay the onset of snowfall to Saturday evening. If the atmosphere doesn’t properly saturate, especially in the snow growth region (DGZ), then this, too, may hold totals down.

[UPDATE 11/29/19 2:30 PM] Looking at some additional data (12z EPS ensemble), I’m seeing more possibility for a shift in the track of the storm to the south that might cut the legs out of precipitation amounts. Right now there’s a greater than 50% chance we receive over 6″ of snow, but we are RIGHT on the line. The heart of the system runs to our south through Wisconsin. We don’t have much room for margin if this thing drifts further south. Earlier this week, we were in the middle of the action.

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[Full disclosure: I’m not a certified meteorologist. I’m an avid weather enthusiast who has consumed some online meteorology college coursework. I’m also a “metrology” nerd (the science of measuring things, particularly the weather). I’ve gone to great lengths to ensure the equipment connected to the site and all measurements that appear here are accurate.]

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